$600,000 Grant Awarded to MDA for Cover Crop Program Assessment, Management

ANNAPOLIS (August 5, 2010) - The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced a $600,000 grant award to the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to implement a statewide remote sensing adaptive management tool that will routinely measure winter cover crop productivity and nutrient uptake. This project will provide valuable information to help make management of the winter cover crop program more effective in protecting water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant for cutting-edge technology to assess the effectiveness and use of cover crops,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Cover crops are the most cost-effective way for farmers to prevent soil erosion and take up any excess nutrients before they can reach the Chesapeake Bay, and this program will enhance the management of our cover crop program. Programs like this are crucial to helping agriculture and to keeping Maryland smart, green and growing.”

The project being funded will create a web-based framework to support accurate and timely reporting of cover crop implementation and performance. In addition to a focused effort in Maryland, the project will foster a partnership with watershed management efforts in key priority watersheds in Pennsylvania and Virginia. The partnership will facilitate the sharing of knowledge and support the expansion of sustainable agricultural management practices within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The project builds on grant funded work being conducted in Maryland’s Choptank and Chester River watersheds on the Eastern Shore. The new grant expands the piloted Eastern Shore project to include the Monocacy watershed in Maryland as well as the Smith Creek watershed in Virginia and the Conewago Creek watershed in Pennsylvania. By the end of the project, it is expected that areas throughout Maryland will be included and that additional useful tools will be developed to support watershed management efforts in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Project partners include the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Maryland, Penn State Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District along with many local conservation agencies and organizations.

Cover crops minimize soil losses during the winter and reduce nutrient runoff from fields. In 2009, cover crops prevented 1.17 million pounds of nitrogen and 47,800 pounds of phosphorus from entering Maryland waterways. Governor O’Malley’s 2-year milestones for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay include increasing the amount of farmland planted with cover crops to 325,000 acres, which will achieve nearly one-third of agriculture’s nutrient reduction goals.

NFWF is a non-profit organization created by Congress in 1984 that works to preserve native wildlife species and habitats. NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most important environmental needs, and matches that money with private funds. For more information about NFWF, visit http://www.nfwf.org/. For more information about the MDA cover crop program, visit http://www.mda.state.md.us/.

Source: Maryland Department of Agriculture

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